In Depth

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: ‘GOAT’ debate, career grand slam wins and big titles

Novak Djokovic wins ninth Australian Open title and 18th slam

World No.1 Novak Djokovic proved he is the king of the Rod Laver Arena after winning a record-extending ninth Australian Open title. 

The Serb, 33, was in superb form as he beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. The victory in Melbourne means Djokovic has now won 18 grand slams and is only two behind “big three” rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who have 20. 

After lifting the trophy Djokovic said on the main court in Melbourne: “I love you each year more and more. The love affair keeps going.

“I think it was a very successful tournament and I’d like to praise [tournament director] Craig Tiley for a tremendous effort

“It was challenging on many different levels and Tennis Australia should be very proud for making it possible.”

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller described Djokovic’s performance in the final as “astonishing”. He said: “The world No.1 is firmly back on track. Two slams behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with a six-year age advantage on the Swiss and 12 months on the Spaniard. Where’s your money?”

Who is the ‘GOAT’?

Tennis fans will argue for hours debating the following question: which male player is the greatest of all time (GOAT)? 

Icons such as Björn Borg, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors get a special mention in the “GOAT” discussion, but for many people it’s a choice of one of the big three. 

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal lead the way with 20 career slams while Novak Djokovic has 18.

Djokovic has dominated on Melbourne’s hard courts with nine of his 17 slams coming in Australia. Nadal is the all-time “king of clay” with 13 French Open victories out of his 20. And Federer has eight wins on grass at Wimbledon from his collection of 20 slams. 

In terms of “Big Titles” - a trophy at a grand slam, the ATP finals, a Masters 1000 tournament or an Olympic singles gold medal - Djokovic has 59 while Nadal is second on 55 and Federer is third with 54.

Here we look at the career records of the big three GOAT contenders...

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: how they compare

Novak Djokovic
  • Nationality: Serbian 
  • Age: 33
  • World ranking: 1
  • Career titles: 82
  • Grand slam titles: 18 (9 x Australian Open: 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021; 1 x French Open: 2016; 5 x Wimbledon: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019; 3 x US Open: 2011, 2015, 2018)
  • Big titles: 59 (18 grand slams; 5 ATP finals; 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles)
Rafael Nadal
  • Nationality: Spanish 
  • Age: 34
  • World ranking: 2
  • Career titles: 86
  • Grand slam titles: 20 (1 x Australian Open: 2009; 13 x French Open: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; 2 x Wimbledon: 2008, 2010; 4 x US Open: 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)
  • Big titles: 55 (20 grand slams; 35 ATP Masters 1000 titles)
Roger Federer
  • Nationality: Swiss 
  • Age: 39
  • World ranking: 5
  • Career titles: 103
  • Grand slam titles: 20 (6 x Australian Open: 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018; 1 x French Open: 2009; 8 x Wimbledon: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017; 5 x US Open: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
  • Big titles: 54 (20 grand slams; 6 ATP Finals; 28 ATP Masters 1000 titles)

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